A stupid decision, but...
It was on sale. I had to have it!
I always wanted to ride a motorcycle. I was 9 when I first grabbed the throttle of a friend of a friends mini bike. I was stupid and wiped out in his backyard. His Dad was pissed.
No set back, after all it was the early 60’s and things were rather lax in the safety department. We threw rocks at each other for a laugh, rode our bikes and crude skateboards without a helmet, stayed out past the street lights until Dad yelled your name from the front porch. I never wore a seat belt in our 65 Impala and loved to pile into the back of our friends station wagon to roll around like lunatics when the huge cage banked a corner.
Damn it, life was fun back then!
I always wanted to have a motorcycle, and it had to be a Harley but never had the cash to pony up for one. In the spring of 1980 a local newspaper ad from Checkpoint Yamaha spoke directly to my inner need to biker up and take advantage of this one-time-only fantastic financial offer! It wasn’t a Harley, but it had a cool style and was affordable. I couldn’t make arrangements fast enough to purchase my sight unseen, never ridden, last years still in a box model. The bank threw the money at me including extra to get a helmet and gloves. So, for the next few days while they assembled my steel horse I endured multiple anxiety attacks while I waited impatiently to pick up my brand new, last years model, awesome, black 1979 Yamaha 650 Special.
Then it finally happened. The phone rang with the exciting news and I managed to sneak out a bit early to get the bus to the dealership in time to sign papers, grab a helmet and burn around town before the darkness of evening fell on my restricted learners licence.
As I made my way to the dealership, it started to sink in that I actually didn’t know how to operate a motorcycle. “How difficult could it be,” I thought. I rode bicycles all my life and figured the only difference was that it had a motor and you had to navigate through traffic.
Easy as pie.
The technician rolled my freshly assembled machine out onto the floor and as I purchased my 3/4 helmet and gloves
I glanced at the guy rolling my bike out and said, “um, not sure what to do here, cuz I’m not sure how to ride it” I politely asked if he could at least show me how to shift gears and I’d be on my way. “You don’t know how to ride this?” he asked. The stupid look on my face was all he really needed and, as he pondered the moment, said to meet him in the back lot.
I never got his name, but I sure appreciated the time he offered me at the end of his shift to give a crash course in feathering a clutch and shifting gears in my new bike. I was instructed to play around in the parking lot until I gained enough confidence to venture out on the street and take my bike home. Then again, something was telling me I was heading for stupid.
Needless to say, I did exactly what he said, and rode my bike home just as it was getting dark. White knuckle and all, I only had a few blocks to go with two major intersections to conquer. Lucky for me the first one was green and I sailed on through still in second gear. The second light turned red and I started to panic. Too many things to do. Clutch in, brake front or was it rear, there’s a car stopping fast in front and one behind and holy smokes there was a huge dump truck coming up along side. I though I was going to pee myself or certainly just fall off this bike. But I managed to conquer the clutch, squeeze the front brake and get two feet on the ground and bring it to a stop. Hoping no one saw how pathetic I must have looked. Heart still pounding, the light turns green and we are ready to roll. Not me. I forget the feathering concept. The clutch popped and I lunged forward and for a split second I think this bike is going to leave my ass on the pavement but reflexes grabbed the front brake and I found myself alone on the street except for the rush hour traffic behind me waiting patiently for me to compose myself and start the bike back up and feather the clutch to pull away smoothly. Unfortunately this took three attempts to complete and well, I felt stupid.
Luck on my side it was Friday which meant a whole weekend to devote to practicing my ride and get ready to use my new 650 Special to transport me to and from work. With my office in downtown Vancouver, my daily commute would become challenging to say the least. However, as my new ride was my only means of transportation, I invested in some cheap rain gear to face the elements of the west coast and rode this bike for four years until the summer I crashed in the country.
I managed heavy traffic, I rode home in a snow storm. Yes, a snow storm. It took hours at slow slippery speeds, but I made it. However, one beautiful hot summers day, with perfect riding conditions my buddy and I are out for an afternoon scoot. Heading back to his house in Yarrow BC, we came upon a very sharp right turn on a narrow back road. We were riding side by side. My buddy was on a 750 Suzuki with dropped down handle bars. He could have easily accelerated through this tight turn, but I on the other hand made a stupid, yes, here comes stupid, decision to accelerate and pull up in front of him and take the curve like the cool dude I thought I was. The curve was too tight and I quickly realized I needed the entire width of the road to turn which would put me into oncoming traffic. A popular road for tractor traffic I took a last second decision not to turn the corner but straighten out and navigate straight onto a dirt road cut off in front of me. Once my front wheel hit the soft shoulder my front end went down and my body was going up and onward. Knowing that I was aiming between trees I knew that if I let go of the handle bars the chances of getting slammed into a tree was very good, so I held on and did a bit of a hand stand as the bike came to rest in the soft dirt. Luck was once again on my side that day as I escaped with a few minor bruises to my leg and shoulder. My wonderful 650 on the other hand was not so good with its front forks slammed back, busted head and signal lights plus a dented tank. I managed to roll it the remainder of the way to my friends house where we put it in his barn and started drinking beer. I needed medicine. I didn’t know what to do as I neglected to have collision insurance and I certainly didn’t have the money to fix it. It was back to taking the bus.
I hate the bus.
I was well into the case of beer and feeling no pain when my buddy pipes up as we sat in the barn staring at the wreck. “We could bury it” he says. “ There’s five acres here, no one will know and you could report it stolen and get insurance money and get a new bike.” It was then that I realized my good friend of many years was somewhat of criminal mind, but I must admit, the more I drank the better the plan got.
Thats it! We’ll bury it deep, I’ll suit up in town, stand on the corner, call the police and tell them my bike was stolen. Should be easy. Fill out a report, do some awesome acting and wait for insurance money. Scam, scam thank you mam!
The next day, once the hangover took hold and the pain from my injuries became quite apparent that I needed to see a doctor I came straight to my senses. Did I just devise a plan to bury my bike? Did I actually get out a shovel in the early morning hours of intoxication and dig a huge hole to throw my bike in? I checked my shoes for manure. No, it didn’t happen and I quickly buried the idea of burying anything. Although the thought of burying my crazy criminal friend crossed my mind.
Honesty prevailed and I repaired the bike properly but the crash kind of put me off.
I sold my 650 Special for next to nothing and put my helmet in the closet telling myself I was done with the motorcycle addiction. I’d be much more safer in a cage or, you guessed it, the damn bus.
You see, I never learned to ride properly back then and I now know that lack of skill and common sense are key factors that will end your riding career quite quickly. The morale of my story is ride smart my friends, and remember, stupid just gets you stupid.